CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA — I hadn’t enjoyed this culinary treat since Castiglione del Lago, in Tuscany, six years ago, so I was excited to find out that Basil in Carmel, on San Carlos near seventh,apparently was the only place in the Monterey Bay area to serve black squid ink pasta.
Did I hear somebody say “yuck?” That’s exactly what my two dining companions said that day I was in Tuscany. However, being a curious person by nature, I had to give it a try. The plate came out, with pasta that was somewhere between deep purple and jet black. It looked strange, different but not off-putting. However, one bite and I was a believer. Such rich, but subtle flavors, it was great and such a change from the ordinary.
So I made a point of having lunch at Basil, a charming little restaurant, set back from the street across from a wine-tasting shop and next door to an art gallery. There were perhaps a dozen tables inside and that many more outside. The intimate atmosphere was the first plus.
The second plus was the menu. Had I not already decided on the Black Squid Ink Linguini (only $14.50), there were at least a half dozen other items that made my mouth water. However, I’d waited a long time for this rare treat.
The purple/black pasta was served with ample pieces of squid in a rich cream sauce. It was as good as I remembered from Italy. My dining companions let me sample their meals. My wife Denise had the Butternut Squash Ravioli in a butter sage sauce, with just the right amount of sage, and her friend Janet had the Lamb Meatballs in a delicious red sauce. Both were exceptional.
The service was great, friendly and warm. They had a wine menu, but since I’m not a wine person, I can’t vouch for their selections. I can, however, vouch for the pumpkin cheesecake, one of the best pieces of cheesecake I’ve ever had.
Even though I live 35 miles from this restaurant, I plan to make a weekly trip until I’ve eaten my way through the entire menu.